RadMon Exclusive Interview: Sharna Bremner

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This week on Deja Moo; Connor, Paris and Yusuf were joined by Sharna Bremner of End Rape on Campus Australia. End Rape on Campus (EROC) Australia launches officially this week, and works to end sexual violence at universities and residential colleges through direct support for survivors and their communities; prevention through education; and policy reform at the campus, state, and federal levels.

See more at http://www.endrapeoncampusau.org 


From their Website:

“We envision a world in which each individual has an educational experience free from violence, and until then, that all survivors are believed, trusted, and supported. EROC Australia directly assists student survivors and their communities. Our work includes, but is not limited to, establishing support networks, mentoring student activists, and advocating for the realisation of the rights of students under applicable university policies and state and federal legislation. Though we are not mental health or legal professionals, we are able to connect survivors to mental health professionals and lawyers as needed.

Sharna Bremner graduated from the University of Adelaide in 2011 with first class honours in Development Studies. In 2013, she resided in the small nation of Timor-Leste while conducting research regarding foreign aid and institutional responses to violence against women in post-conflict countries.

 

Transcript of Interview:

CJ: A fairly instrumental day for yourself with the launch of “End Rape on Campus Australia” – obviously building on the momentum of your american counterpart to bring the issues of University Rape Culture and Sexual Assault into the limelight // Can you introduce us to the concept of the organisation a little more?

SB: At “End Rape on Campus” we don’t believe that it should be on the backs of survivors to hold the universities to account for failing to address the issue, so part of our job is to ensure that both the students and universities are aware of their rights and responsibilities when it comes to sexual assaults that happen between students or on campuses and we’re hoping that every student around the country is free to have an educational experience that’s free from sexual violence and if that’s not the case that they are supported and believed by their university.

CJ: Definitely, and do you think that perhaps it is a little overdue that a site like this has been established to support the Australian University Community?

SB: I think it is. This is an issue that’s been going on for decades and we’re finally now seeing some real momentum behind it.

PB: From looking at the site myself, I’ve notice that the layout is very user accessible, with links to individual universities policies as well as a section for help as well as donations. What do you hope your website will be able to achieve?

SB: When we were putting together the website, we realised that it was really difficult to find the. policies for each of the universities. On average it took me around 2 hours and 45 minutes per university to get those policies online, and that’s when you could find them. So I guess the main thing that I’m hoping initially is that anyone who needs those resources is able to find them really quickly without having to sit there and make their way through pages and pages of university policy.

CJ: 100% I think accessibility is one of the main things, because usually it takes so much time just to get to a point where you want to seek help for it; so you don’t want to have to face any more hurdles. 

SB: Part of the problem is that each university seems to define sexual assault really differently between their policies, so it became about finding common terminology before you could even get to the policy. When you do get there it was so complex, so to someone who has suffered trauma to be in that situation … it’s just not fair.

CJ: I feel that often we try to distance ourselves from these issues and pretend that somehow Australia is immune or above this toxic culture that’s existed in America for so long; we think that culture is so far removed from what happens here – And sadly It really takes cases like the horrible story of Monash student Emma Hunt that’s currently doing the rounds for our attentions to be seized by this ever present issue. Is it a little unfortunate that this isn’t a constant conversation? 

SB: Like you said, it takes a really horrible case to make it into the media; and then everyone pays attention for the week and then moves on. And then the university will respond and say they will take the matter very seriously – as they always seem to say when this issue arrises – and nothing ever changes. There’s definitely been a lot of pushback and a lot of people saying this is an American issue and not something that happens in Australia… I can guarantee that is absolutely not the case, it’s happening in every university I’ve interacted with around the country. It’s no coincidence that I can talk to a student that goes to any university all across the country and hear the same stories emerge.

CJ: It feels like there really is an transparency and evanescence to the media’s coverage of this issue… that it’s talked about for a few weeks and then radio silence?

SB: Yep. I think now we’re seeing the start of something different, there’s definitely been a lot more attention payed to the issue itself. My hope is that the constant coverage we’ve seen on this over the last few months, ranging from the Baxtor college chant in NSW to Emma’s story… these stories aren’t going away. The only thing that is going to stop them is universities and residential colleges and all the other stakeholders actually taking the issue seriously and starting to take action against perpetrators.

PB: I know from experiences I’ve had with friends, there seems to be hesitance in reporting assault, for a number of reasons from shame due to the stigma that exists around rape, to not wanting to make life difficult for their attackers, especially if they were friends before, or not wanting to go through the process of reporting it. Do you think there is a solution to this mentality? 

SB: I think once we start talking about the issue more and once we start getting the message out there that it is never your fault, what happens to you when you are sexually assaulted is never your fault no matter where you are – what you were wearing – what you had to drink, ect. It’s never the fault of the survivor. I think also we need to get rid of the monster myths surrounding what a rapist looks like, that it’s not always the man in the bushes that it could be someone you know, which really tend to stop people reporting it. Once we get over those myths and make it really clearly understood that it is never the fault of the survivor (we will see it become a more accepted process).

PB: When facing issues like this – bystanders often feel helpless, what can everyday University students like ourselves do contribute to ending rape on campus and beyond?

SB: The best thing you can do for anyone is to believe and support survivors. Let them know that you’re there for them, and stand up for them – because there will always be those who challenge them and say that they’re making it up or the usual speech that comes out whenever someone comes forward – stand up to them. Whenever someone makes a rape joke, it’s all contributing to the bigger picture of addressing the issue not just in universities but in the wider society. Making sure to check if a person is ok, it doesn’t take a lot – and if there’s nothing wrong you haven’t lost anything – but if something is up you have no idea the impact you could have.

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Connor Johnston

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